No nudes is bad news for Birmingham art gallery
The Guardian reports that Syra Miah, a Bangladeshi-British photographer, is complaining that her work has been censored because of pressure from a Muslim arts group.
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is hosting Miah’s exhibition of documentary photographs taken in Bangladesh. However, one of the photos contained the image of a semi-naked woman, which prompted a complaint from a member of the Muslim arts group Artists Circle. So, of course, they removed the offensive image immediately.
Miah is not pleased:
I felt that the whole message behind my show had been undermined by this censorship [...] During the editing process the curators seemed to want images in the exhibition that portrayed Bangladesh as another colourful Asian country. Sadly, the removal of this image, the only image in the show that could be interpreted as gritty, confirmed my growing cynical view that the museum wanted to perpetuate a myth about Muslim societies: that nudity isn’t tolerated. In Bangladeshi society – at least the one I witnessed – it clearly is.
The partially dressed figure in the image was actually a mentally ill woman who had made a home of a bus shelter. She was looked after by locals who made sure she was out of danger and fed. I think this shows a compassionate view of Islamic society
Defending their decision, the museums head of projects said:
The complaint we received was taken very seriously and it was after much consideration that the decision to remove the work from the exhibition was taken with the full agreement of the artist.
Miah denies that she was consulted.
The Artists Circle is one of the museum’s main stakeholder groups.
UPDATE: The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery replied to an email inquiry from a MWW reader (see comments below). They insist that the photo was removed with Miah’s approval:
The gallery discussed the matter with Syra Miah, and the photograph was removed on 18 July with her full agreement. Our understanding following these discussions was that Syra Miah said that she understood the reasons for the removal and accepted the decision. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery had not heard from the artist about this matter since the time the work was removed 7 weeks ago in July.